Works of Art
Printing high-quality art reproductions from paintings is a different ballgame, according to Wollmann. “It requires a high-resolution repro-grade color camera, color-correct studio lights, calibration equipment, state-of-the-art monitors and color-controlled lighting or light booths,” he said.
One very important step with paintings, according to Wollmann, is hiring technicians with a high level of color acuity. “We test our employees for color acuity using a Farnsworth Munsell color acuity test,” reported Wollmann. “We have found that artists have significantly better color acuity than the general population, so finding a tech with an equal level of color acuity and Photoshop training can sometimes be a challenge.”
Paintings are where the bulk of Squirt Printing’s work comes from. “There is this never-ending stream of paintings moving in and out of here,” said Wood. “Those usually start with a painted piece either shipped to us or brought in here.”
Squirt Printing uses a BetterLight Super 6k scanning back camera system to capture the images. “It’s a 4x5, and we will take a very nice digital picture of the art,” said Wood. “And that’s specialized with this kind of printing work because you need to bring texture out of the art. You need to bring whatever the feeling of the art is out, so we don’t always light it so that it is a very nice flat even lighting, where there are many hot spots. We need to light it so we can bring out the art, which sort of varies for every piece. There are artists who paint with their palette knife. There are artists who paint with the smallest brush and you don’t ever see any texture to it. And each of them has their own needs—whether they want to see more or less texture or whatever the special part of their art is.”
Once the image is captured there is a color-matching phase. “The best of the cameras, the best of the color management, the best of the printers, never match,” said Wood. “So you always have the Photoshop proofing phase, where a very skilled operator who is kind of a blend of this technical side and an artist’s side, can go into Photoshop and make it match, through a series of proofs. After that, you can go to printing out your large-format prints.”
New technology and new media have enhanced the world of fine-art printing. Whether it is new printers, new paper, or even an app on an iPhone, innovations abound.
“We’ve done some really fun printing on Hahnemühle papers recently,” said Wood. “It’s their Photo Rag Satin. We’re printing on the HP Z3200, and we’re just constantly blown away at the color range of that—the clarity and resolution. It’s a cotton rag that has a very, very slight satin sheen to it, and so you get that water-color rag look, but just with a huge amount of color range.”
Squirt Printing uses HP Z3100s, HP Z3200s, and HP 5500 printers, all with the longer life inks. “We don’t use any dye inks here,” stated Wood. “Everything is UV ink.”
Marco Fine Arts buys constantly buys new equipment and software to keep up with its artists’ needs. “We also invest a great deal of money in supporting our customers with our own technology including custom-built websites and other systems to support their needs,” said Marco.
Marco uses Epson’s new fine-art paper, which is 100% cotton rag. Marco says canvas has been is a fast-growing media, and substrates like metal, bamboo, and Plexiglas have been in demand lately. “The most popular are still canvas and paper, but alternative substrates get a lot of attention,” he said.
Century Editions has seen significant improvements in printing equipment and media in the last few years. “Color gamut and longevity of inks have improved dramatically,” said Wollmann. “The stability of pigments has made longevity of prints in terms of color fading a non-issue. Substrates have also made significant gains, though we still see significant variations in consumables production lots, which means that process control in the media end of things could stand for some improvement.”